Saturday 21 October 2017

Former Anglo secretary felt 'threatened' by letter from investigator, court hears

Former Chairman of Anglo Irish Bank, Sean Fitzpatrick (68). Picture: Collins Courts.
Former Chairman of Anglo Irish Bank, Sean Fitzpatrick (68). Picture: Collins Courts.

Declan Brennan

The former company secretary of Anglo Irish Bank said she felt threatened and shocked by a letter from the Office of Director of Corporate Enforcement investigator demanding documentation from the bank in 2009.

Seán FitzPatrick (68) is on trial accused of failing to disclose to auditors the extent of multi-million euro loans linked to him.

The State's case is that loans taken out by the accused, his wife and family members increased from in the region of €10 million in 2002 to around €100 million in 2007.

The prosecution alleges that amount of these loans was “artificially reduced” for a period of two weeks around the bank's financial end of year statement by short term loans from other sources, including Irish Nationwide Building Society.

Mr FitzPatrick of Whitshed Road, Greystones, Co Wicklow has pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to 27 offences under the 1990 Companies Act. These include 22 charges of making a misleading, false or deceptive statement to auditors and five charges of furnishing false information in the years 2002 to 2007.

Natasha Mercer, the former company secretary with Anglo, said that she became aware of the annual refinancing of Mr FitzPatrick's loan in around 2001

She agreed that in January 2009 she received a letter from Kevin O'Connell, an investigator from the Office of Director of Corporate Enforcement.

This letter was the first contact from the ODCE to Anglo and in it Mr O'Connell stated that "if you or any person fails to furnish reasonable assistance to me...or fails to produce documents.....you and they may be guilty of offences".

Ms Mercer told Bernard Condon SC, defending, that she found the language in the letter “quite threatening”.

“Comply or else was my impression. I was concerned and shocked to receive the letter and I brought it to the attention of the chairman, Donal O'Connor, immediately.”

In her reply to Mr O'Connell, sent within days, she wrote: “The bank's auditors had extensive access to the bank's working files during the course of their audits.”

Mark Redmond, a former lending manager with Anglo, testified that the annual refinancing arrangement was “widely known around the bank”.

He said he was involved in compiling a list of loans linked to the accused. He said he would walk around the 15 lending teams and ask them “if they had exposure to Mr FitzPatrick”. The trial continues.

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